Finally tonight, as promised, a Special Comment on former Vice President Cheney's remarks about the prospects of future terrorist attacks in this country. Flatly, it may be time for Mr. Cheney to leave this country.
The partisanship, divisiveness and naiveté to which he ascribed every single criticism of his and President Bush's delusional policies of the last eight years, have now roared forth in a destructive and uninformed diatribe from Mr. Cheney, that can only serve to undermine the nation's new president, undermine the nation's effort to thwart terrorism, and undermine the nation itself.
Mr. Cheney's remarks were posted yesterday at Politico.com. They are a reiteration of all the manias of his vice presidency. Only they now come without the authority of office. They insist, he insists, on the imminence of attack, of the maintenance of Gitmo, of the necessity of waterboarding, of the efficacy of torture.
Time does not stale nor custom wither your infinite variety, Mr. Cheney. You will say it, and be wrong and you will still say it anew. You will say it, and undercut a President 17 days on the job and you will still say it anew. You will say it, and help terrorists and you will still say it anew.
"The United States needs to be not so much loved as it needs to be respected. Sometimes, that requires us to take actions that generate controversy. I'm not at all sure that that's what the Obama administration believes."
The first glimmer, in years, of sanity in any your remarks, Sir. That's not at all what the Obama administration appears to believe. It seems to be ready to use all avenues and all emotions, seeking love, respect, fear, diplomacy, shared experience, education, principle, and, yes, even rational thought. This President, unlike yours, seems intent on living in the real world rather than trying to re-shape an imaginary one, by force.
"When we get people who are more concerned about reading the rights to an al-Qaida terrorist than they are with protecting the United States against people who are absolutely committed to do anything they can to kill Americans, then I worry."
More concerned, Mr. Cheney? What delusion of grandeur makes you think you have the right to say anything like that? Because a president, or an ordinary American, demands that we act as Americans and not as bullies; demands that we play by our rules; that we preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States; you believe we have chosen the one and not the other? We can be Americans, or we can be what you call "safe" — but not both?
"If it hadn't been for what we did — with respect to the terrorist surveillance program, or enhanced interrogation techniques for high-value detainees, the Patriot Act, and so forth — then we would have been attacked again. Those policies we put in place, in my opinion, were absolutely crucial to getting us through the last seven-plus years without a major-casualty attack on the U.S."
Mr. Cheney, you are lying. As the cloud of fear you deliberately fostered in this good-hearted and courageous nation finally begins to dissipate, the nonsense that you and Mr. Bush presented as "evidence" of this childish claim, this perverse example of wishful-nightmare-thinking, has become apparent, and it should shame you.
The "major-casualty attacks" on the U.S. you think you stopped, involved would-be hijackers who were under constant surveillance and had neither passports nor plane tickets. They involved feeble-minded braggarts so clueless as to even the most obvious steps of organization that they believed they could enter Fort Dix in New Jersey disguised as delivery men, and kill hordes of Americans, and get out alive, even though Fort Dix teems with soldiers who have an almost inexhaustible supply of weapons.
They involved embittered ex-Airport-employees so uninformed about where they used to work, that they thought dropping a match in a fuel supply line thirty miles away would cause the airport to explode. These are the plots that by your own proud, strutting, crazy admissions, were the ones you "got us through."
You and Mr. Bush, sir—you are the old men who cried wolf. The Politico story continues:
"Citing intelligence reports, Cheney said at least 61 of the inmates who were released from Guantanamo during the Bush administration - "that's about 11 or 12 percent" - have "gone back into the business of being terrorists."
Mr. Cheney, you made this statistic up. Perhaps not you personally, but your people made this statistic up! As the new reality-based administration has discovered, there are not enough records of detainees still at Gitmo to suggest that there is any reliable database on those released. That McCarthy-esque number, Sir, is also as fluid as the infamous Senator's was.
As Professor Mark Denbeaux of Seton Hall University noted on this network last month:
"The government has given its 43rd attempt to describe the number of people who have left Guantanamo and returned to the battlefield. Forty-one times they have done it orally as they have this last time. And their numbers have changed from 20 to 12 to seven to more than five to two to a couple to a few - 25, 29, 12 to 24. Every time, the number has been different. In fact, every time they give a number, they don't identify a date, a place, a time, a name or an incident to support their claim."
Mr. Cheney, which orifice are you pulling these numbers from? Y'know, in the movie "The Manchurian Candidate," the character based loosely on Joe McCarthy had trouble remembering all the different numbers. His Lady Macbeth-like-wife pointed out to him that the reason she kept changing the number of purported communists in the state department, was so that people would no longer be asking "are there communists in the state department?" but would begin only asking "how many communists are there?"
Eventually she picked one number that her husband could remember. Fifty-seven. She found it on the bottle of steak sauce on the room service tray. Of course, Mr. Cheney, it is also impossible to prove that any of those released detainees actually were terrorists before we captured them, because you never presented any evidence against them, Sir, and they were released. Which makes something else you said, seem almost the product of a split personality.
"If you release the hard-core al-Qaida terrorists that are held at Guantanamo, I think they go back into the business of trying to kill more Americans and mount further mass-casualty attacks. If you turn 'em loose and they go kill more Americans, who's responsible for that?"
Well, right now? That'd be you and Mr. Bush. You released those supposed repeat terrorists. All 61 of them. Or 12. You. If Gitmo worked so well and you really had the devils in a cage, why did you… release them? Without trial. Without any second effort at proving their guilt. You just released them. If you turned 'em loose and they go kill more Americans, who's responsible for that, Dick?
And, six years and more since General Powell, and Dr. Rice, and all the rest, played the trump card of terrorizing this nation, the mighty Cream of Mushroom Cloud soup, you played it again... nuclear weapon, biological agent, deaths of perhaps hundreds of thousands.
"I think there's a high probability of such an attempt. Whether or not they can pull it off depends whether or not we keep in place policies that have allowed us to defeat all further attempts, since 9/11, to launch mass-casualty attacks against the United States."
"The Bush System," as John Yoo so aptly re-christened it the other day. Start the wrong war, detain the wrong people, employ the wrong methods, pursue the wrong leads, utilize the wrong emotions. Beat up first, ask questions later. You know, just like Al-Qaeda does, or Iran. Save this nation from terrorists by doing the terrorists' work for them, Mr. Cheney. To your credit, sir, you have added a new monster under a new bed, to try to continue to foment a national policy of panic. It's the Terrorists-on-our-streets ploy.
"Is that really a good idea to take hardened al-Qaida terrorists who've already killed thousands of Americans and put 'em in San Quentin or some other prison facility where they can spread their venom even more widely than it already is?"
As opposed to keeping them in an extra-legal facility mixed in with some unknown number of innocents mistaken for terrorists. Who's likelier to be more influenced by terrorist venom, Mr. Cheney? The characters from the TV series "Oz?" Or a bunch of guys who we're holding in chains without trial and without even some token attempt at rehabilitation? And by the way, what about Ahmed Ressam, sir? Benni Noris, if you prefer. The Millennium Bomber.
Caught at a ferry crossing from Canada to Washington State in December, 1999, on his way to blow up Los Angeles International Airport. He had a car, a legit passport, nitroglycerin, and timing devices. And what did we do to him, Mr. Cheney? Did we send him to Gitmo? Or Pre-Gitmo? As "high a value" terrorist as ever we've caught in this country. Trained by Abu Zubaydah.
Days away from his target and ready to go. We tried him. In U.S. courts. With U.S. lawyers. Part of the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court. He got 22 years in U.S. prisons.No torture, no Gulag, no stories of him proselytizing fellow prisoners. Oh, but he did cooperate long enough to tell prosecutors about al-Qaida cells in this country.
That was his info they stuck in the President's Daily Brief of August 6th, 2001. That's probably news to you, since obviously you and Mr. Bush didn't read it, stalking Saddam Hussein as you were. Of course, none of that mattered to Mr. Cheney, just as none of this matters to Mr. Cheney. Because, at heart, Mr. Cheney is not interested foremost in protecting this country. He is interested foremost in protecting Mr. Cheney. And the business of being Dick Cheney, of rationalizing one's own existence after one of the most reprehensible, myopic, unprincipled, and even un-American careers in the history of our government, depends on continuing to convince the gullible of us to live in abject fear and not with vigilance and common sense and principles.
We, sir, will most completely assure our security not by maintaining the endless, demoralizing, draining, life-denying blind fear and blind hatred which you so thoroughly embody. We will most easily purchase our safety by repudiating the "Bush System." We will reserve the violence for which you are so eager, Sir, for any battlefield to which we truly must take, and not for unconscionable wars which people like you goad and scare and lie us into.
You, Mr. Cheney, you terrified more Americans than did any terrorist in the last seven years, and now it is time for you to desist, or to be made to desist. With damnable words like these, Sir, you help no American, you protect no American, you serve no American — you only aid and abet those who would destroy this nation from within or without. More than 400 years ago, when a British Parliament attempted to govern after its term had expired, it was dispersed by the actions, and words, of Oliver Cromwell.
"You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately," he told them — exactly as, Mr. Cheney, exactly as a nation now tells you: "Depart, I say, and let us have done with you.
"In the name of God… go!"